Apollo 11 Recollections #10

Written by: developer

Apollo 11 Recollections #10 The Most Noble Adventure in the Past 200 Years
I was 25 when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped out on the lunar surface on 20 July, 1969. Michael Collins was orbiting the moon in the primary Apollo spaceship. I remember listening to the launch of John Glenn, the first American to enter earth orbit. It certainly filled me with pride in the United States of America. But, the moon landing was the most spectacular, awe-inspiring, technological achievement I had ever witnessed. At the time I was a 2nd Lt. working for the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) SAGE direction center. I was part of the Washington/Baltimore air defense. We had Nike Hercules rockets capable of shooting down entire fleets of Soviet bombers. I knew something about rocketry, but the Apollo spacecraft and the 7.5 million lbs. thrust, Saturn V was the most remarkable booster the world has ever seen. We used it to land men on the moon six times and to put Skylab in orbit. It worked perfectly in putting Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins in earth orbit, just before firing the 3rd stage rocket motors enabling the Apollo spacecraft to leave for the moon. We were in the middle of the war in Vietnam. The weight of this war was very heavy to bear for all Americans, especially our soldiers. For me, the American space program from the Mercury, to the Gemini, to the Apollo moon landing was most inspirational. It proved to me that we human beings can do the most extraordinary things if we only have the vision to do so. On the evening of 20 July, 1969, I was on leave visiting my mother in Cincinnati, Ohio. I knew, as most people knew, we were witnessing the most noble adventure in the past 200 years. After seeing the photos taken of the earthrise from the Apollo spacecraft December 1968 and now seeing Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin actually walking on the lunar surface I believed mankind would develop a profound new world view, one where each one of us could see we are one world. I believe the Apollo program and the Apollo 11 lunar landing was to be equal to Christopher Columbus discovering the pristine continent we now know to be America. I recorded on a small reel to reel tape recorder both my mother’s and my own feelings as Neil Armstrong stepped out on the moon. I listened the other day to this recording. I was then and still am in awe when I see a nearly full moon and think, “men really walked on the moon’s surface.” I hope today America may continue to have leaders like John Kennedy who have a vision for both America and a free world, everywhere. – Robert B. Payne

My Father was Proud
I was eight years old and watching from my aunt’s house in New York. My family had just driven from Texas, after a three-year stint in Houston. My father worked for Grumman Aircraft Engineering, a NASA contractor, as a thermal test engineer on the lunar modules (as he said, ensuring that the astronauts “didn’t barbecue” when they turned toward the sun). There was a big exodus of contractors right before Apollo 11 landed because the space program was shutting down. A few engineers found jobs in Texas, but almost everyone returned to their original homes. The landing on the moon was not only an amazing milestone in human history, but the culmination of an extraordinary experience for my family. My father, who died six weeks ago, was proud of his work on the LEMs and on being part of the team that focused on getting the astronauts to the moon. – Barbara Resch

It Inspired Me to Dream!
On July 20, 1969, I was 13 years old and a certified “space nut.” My bedroom walls were covered with “NASA Facts” and space photos. I had plastic models of the LM, CM, and Saturn V on all furniture surfaces. I wanted to be an Astronaut, so just like Neil Armstrong I started flying at age 11 and took my student pilot’s exam. I entered a contest to win a real Gemini Capsule (the 2nd manned spacecraft after Mercury) by guessing the exact time that Neil Armstrong would step on the moon. I made all the math calculations and calculated 7/20/69 at 12:33 EDT. The actual time was 10:56 EDT. I taped most of the moon landings on reel-to-reel. I was the only one in my family watching the first step on the moon by Neil Armstrong. Immediately before Armstrong’s famous words and first step, my Mom came into the room and reminded me to clean my room. I couldn’t believe she would make such a mundane request when man’s greatest technological achievement was about to occur. I yelled out “Mommm!!!!!” right before Armstrong’s famous words! It was recorded for posterity! My desire to be an Astronaut inspired me to do well in school. I was accepted at three Service Academies: Coast Guard, Navy, and Air Force. I went to the USAF Academy in 1974. During 1984 I applied for a Mission Specialist slot on the Shuttle. I made the first cut but was not selected. I will always remember the days of the Apollo Space Program and how it inspired me to dream! – Michael D. Mancusi, USAFA ’78

The Moon Never Looked So Beautiful
I was living in Tucson, Ariz., watching TV, like millions of others for that moment when man would not only land on the moon, but also walk on the moon. The feeling of anticipation was indescribable, for fear of failure and for excitement of success. As I watched the landing I could hardly believe what had truly happened, but that was just the beginning. As I watched Neil Armstrong go out and down the ladder, I cried! I cried for the true miracle of space exploration, for the vision of President Kennedy, and for the future of our nation. What other adventures would lie ahead, and would we as a nation continue to believe in what could be achieved. After watching the landing and walk on the moon, my friends and I went outside, lay on lounge chairs around the pool and just gazed at the moon. Oh what a wonderful and spectacular site it was! The moon never looked so beautiful as it did then! And I prayed, prayed for their safe return, and for the future of the space program! My prayers were answered then, and I hope they will continue to be answered! For after all, as Neil Armstrong so gloriously stated, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” May we continue to follow in those footsteps, and may we continue to leap! – Cheryl

A Teacher’s Memories
My second son was born April 10, 1969, and I was feeding him because he was crying out for milk and I couldn’t hear the TV. I was at that moment trying to hear the exciting historic news on TV. I lived in Northglenn, Colo., and was soon going back to teaching 2nd grade in Adams County, Dist. 12. After having John Glenn’s God Child in my 1st grade class in Cocoa Beach Elementary and meeting John (in his orange space suit) in the Holiday Inn dining room in 1961, I felt very close the space program. Gordon Cooper and I went to the same community church on the Beach, in my earliest years of teaching. That same year a local newspaper article came out showing my classroom at a PTA meeting. It was the most rewarding and exciting years of my teaching career. Years later, when I had already moved to Northglenn, a contest was held to choose the First Teacher in Space. Christa McAuliffe, was chosen in 1986, to be first. Years after that historic tragedy, Barbara Morgan was automatically the runner-up to Christa. Barbara and I studied together in Washington State, where we took classes in the Challenger Program. We learned to set up an environment on Mars to teach every subject in the middle school curriculum. We also flew a space shuttle simulator together and operated NASA ground control. Before Barbara Morgan finally went up into space, as an astronaut/educator, 20 years after Christa, she wrote me a good-bye letter. I’ll always remember that class where I also met “Pinky” Nelson, another astronaut in the program. – Mylene Rae Zerr

Watching on the Way Home
Though only 14, I had followed the entire U.S. Space program. I was with a group of four with a missionary on the way from having helped build a church in Nevada to our homes in Roswell, N.M. We stopped for a short visit at the Grand Canyon. It seemed as though all efforts to find a TV to watch the first steps on the moon were gone when one of the crew came out of the lobby of the visitor’s center saying they were setting up a TV. I guess my having made a fuss paid off. They had set up a small 13 inch black and white TV on a piece of furniture in the lobby as people began to pack the room. I was too short to see the small set and found a wooden pole in the middle of the room to shimmy up high enough to see the TV. It wasn’t easy holding on and not sliding down the pole, but for about 20 minutes or so, I wasn’t about to let go and miss even one second of what I considered the most historical event, at least in my life time. I remember it as if it just happened. Years later, I was most fortunate to get to meet Buzz Aldrin as well as Deke Slayton at the NASA VIP stands in Florida during the 3rd Space Shuttle launch. A few months later in Albuquerque, I got to meet and talk with the crew of that Shuttle mission, Jack Lousma and Gordon Fullerton. I was introduced to them by none other than Senator Jack Schmitt, Lunar Module Pilot of Apollo 17, who also was the last man to set foot on the Moon*. – Stephen (Sky) King

A Team Effort
I was a Field Representative for the Rocketdyne Division of North American Rockwell assigned to the second stage engines at Seal Beach, Calif. However, I was at the Cape for the launch of Apollo 11. There is no way that I can describe the thrill, the effort that everybody who worked on the program to see a safe launch. This was a team of many private companies working together to achieve an almost impossible dream. I am so saddened by the current trend towards socialism or communism exhibited by our current government because I know down deep in my heart that the engineers, technicians, etc. of this country can solve the energy and many other problems this country faces under the right challenge and leadership as was put forth with the space program. – Allen Harrison

A Memory and an Autograph
I was stationed in Wiesbaden, Germany, assigned to Headquarters, United States Air Force in Europe during the Apollo 11 moon landing. I remember it was in the early morning hours in our military family quarters. My wife, Ursula, some German friends visiting us from Berlin and I watched the landing on a small black and white portable TV on the Armed Forces Radio/TV network. It didn’t matter that the reception on the TV was snowy because the excitement level in watching this historic event is beyond words. This achievement was highly regarded by the Germans because of Wernher von Braun’s involvement in our space program. Many, many years later, I had asked Buzz Aldrin to autograph a photo of him on the moon for our Berlin friends. A few years later, Ursula and I on visit to Berlin personally delivered the photo. – Chuck Zimkas, Space Foundation, Colorado Springs, Colo.

Such a Great Memory
I was glued to the television like so many other millions of Americans. I was a senior in high school and remember always playing space and astronauts when we were children. I followed all of the Mercury and Gemini flights as well. I remember as a child we put bugs, frogs, whatever we could find to be our astronauts and launch them with water-powered rockets we had as kids and then checked to see if they survived. I collected all the articles on space exploration all during my childhood. In school my talks were always on space exploration. I amassed boxes of articles on space exploration and when I was a senior one of my teachers contacted the Smithsonian Institution and told them all the articles I had. They said they would want them if I wanted to donate them. They couldn’t pay me for them, but I could write off the value on my taxes. A senior in high school doesn’t need many tax writeoffs. I kept the letter but one day I just might donate my collection as now it has grown quite large. While I was in the military, my friends and relatives would collect the articles for me. It was a great time to grow up and was so much fun following all the early space flights. And even more fun pretending to be astronauts as children. We used to get inside of big barrels and have somebody roll us around or roll us down a hill and that would be our “spaceflight.” Yes, those times are such a great memory. – Ricky C. Swanson

That is a Legacy
Like so many others, my family was glued to the black and white television. I was 12 and we lived in Rockledge, Fla., because my Dad had worked at Cape Kennedy as a ‘rocket scientist’ on Gemini and Apollo. The fact that he had been laid off and out of work for months and we were getting ready to move for his new (non-space) job didn’t matter or make it less exciting to us. With my Dad in the room, it was if we were in Mission Control, waiting for the landing with our breath held. When Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon it was as if every science fiction story I had read about going there was going to come true. And, in a way, it has for my family. This fall my niece begins her studies to become an astrophysicist and hopefully, an astronaut, because of my Dad, her Grandfather. Now that is a legacy. – Teri Smith

We Watched History in the Making
I was a brand new plebe at the U.S. Naval Academy. We were three weeks into an intensive seven-week orientation or “boot camp” intended to transition us from civilians to midshipmen. We were allowed to watch the moon landing on television. It was the only time that summer and, in fact, all year we were permitted that luxury. That made it all the more special. I remember very vividly that hot summer night, joining a couple of hundred of my classmates in a small, stuffy room, crowded around a very small black and white television. We watched history in the making in total silence, each one of us entranced by what we were seeing. Many of us shared a childhood dream of one day being an astronaut but this was no fantasy; this was the real thing. That experience led me to learn more about each of the men on that mission and what had brought them to that time and place. It gave me a vector that I followed to realize my dream. – Ken Reightler

Eyes Glued to the TV
I was working in the Saturn S-IC Project Office at the Marshall Space Flight Center on July 20, 1969, and very much a part of the excitement and fascination that we had achieved our goal. I was sitting in my living room floor, eyes glued to the black and white TV when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the surface of the Moon. – Sandy Coleman

I Knew this was Something Amazing
I was seven years old. I’d been outside playing when my father called me in to the house. He said there was something very special going on being broadcast on TV that I really had to see. I’d seen the broadcast for the launch of Apollo 11 a few days earlier, remembering that this mission was supposed to be going to the moon… but I’d forgotten about it. When I walked in to the living room, I saw very grainy video of the moon as seen from the LEM. It was fascinating to think that men were about to land on the moon! But at seven years old, I didn’t have the kind of marvel about it as my father. After all, in “Star Trek,” spaceships travel all over the universe. This “primitive” capsule was about to make a landing on the moon. Suddenly the tension mounted as the LEM made its final descent. I hadn’t even the slightest thought about anything going wrong. It seemed too easy to me. But when they finally landed, I did feel a sense of relief for the astronauts. Finally, when Neil Armstrong descended the ladder, I watched intently. My father whispered “This will be one of the greatest achievements of mankind you’ll see in your lifetime”. Then the final moment – a man stepped onto the face of the moon. “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” At that moment, I felt the importance. Somehow in that science fiction saturated seven-year-old mind, I knew that this was something amazing. From that point on, I followed every Apollo mission (13 was probably the most riveting) and the Skylab missions, hopeful that we’d get back to the moon one day. And now it looks like we just might return. – Gary

Congratulations for being American
My father was a diplomat assigned to a World Health Organization project in Ibadan, Nigeria. I was 12 years old. During that summer, the four kids (15, 12, 9, and 6 years old) and my parents had traveled along the West coast of Africa in our trusty Peugeot 404, visiting Togo, Dahomey, and Ghana and staying at a couple different resorts along the coast – stopping to swim for hours at a time at random pristine white beaches with huge waves. (How we survived the sharks and currents is a mystery to all of us.) On the night of the moon landing, we were the only Americans sitting in an outdoor restaurant patio in Ghana. A short wave radio had the live broadcast of the landing playing. When the lander landed, the entire restaurant broke out in cheers, and a large number of people came to our table and congratulated us and America – and the cheers were even louder when Neil Armstrong stepped outside. It was a very memorable and proud moment that I will never forget. – Walter Finley

Most Kids were Excited About Space
I was between my freshman and sophomore years in high school during the Apollo program. My family and I gathered around the TV to watch the launch. I was very into the Mercury and Gemini program as were most kids and made models of the capsules as a hobby. Most kids back then were really excited about space. Toy stores were a big hit with rockets and models back then. As a family, we would watch all the launches from Mercury, Gemini and Apollo together. – Jay Wright, Burke High School, Omaha, Neb. (attending Space Foundation Space Discovery Institute).

Waiting Patiently
I was five years old. I sat outside, gazed and the moon while patiently waiting to see the astronauts. – Noreen Buhmann

A Lot of Respect
You have a lot of respect of what they’ve done. It makes you feel like you haven’t done anything. Buzz is a month older than I am and I think about all the things they’ve done and if they can do that, you can do something also with your life. – Elvira Canzanella

Photo courtesy of NASA

*Harrison “Jack” Schmitt was the last of the Apollo astronauts to arrive and set foot on the Moon (crewmate Eugene Cernan exited the Apollo Lunar Module first). However, as Schmitt re-entered the module first, Cernan became the last astronaut to walk on and depart the moon.  

This article is part of Space Watch: August 2009 (Volume: 8, Issue: 8).